Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales

Med J Aust. 2013 Sep 16;199(6):410-3. doi: 10.5694/mja12.11802.


Objective: Asbestos exposure is causally associated with the development of malignant mesothelioma (MM), which is increasingly being reported after exposure to asbestos fibro sheeting in Australia. In this study, we investigate self-reported non-occupational asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales.

Design and setting: Cross-sectional mailed questionnaire examining renovation activity, tasks undertaken during renovation and self-reported exposure to asbestos among respondents and their family members in NSW between January and June 2008.

Participants: 10 000 adults aged 18-99 years, randomly selected from the NSW electoral roll. We received 3612 responses, while 365 questionnaires did not reach addressees, giving an overall response rate of 37.5%.

Main outcome measures: Differences in self-reported asbestos exposure between do-it-yourself (DIY) and non-DIY renovators.

Results: 1597 participants (44.2%) had renovated their home and among these, 858 participants (53.7%) self-reported as DIY renovators. Of these, 527 (61.4%) reported asbestos exposure during home renovations, 337 (39.3%) reported that their partner had been exposed to asbestos during renovations, and 196 (22.8%) reported that their children had been exposed. More than 20% of renovators planned to further renovate their current homes within the next 5 years.

Conclusions: Self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation is common. This preventable exposure could place adults and children at risk of MM many years into the future. Although such exposure is self-reported and ideally should be verified, this study identifies a potentially important problem in NSW.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Construction Materials / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Maintenance*
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Asbestos